Written by: G. Ahlborn
Reviewed by: L. Kiff
Edited by: L. Kiff, G. Ahlborn
DISTRIBUTION, ABUNDANCE, AND SEASONALITY
Common in breeding season throughout most of
California. Absent to uncommon in most
of state in winter, with greatest concentrations in coastal regions.
Not found at highest
elevations in Sierra Nevada. Occurs in open stages of most habitats
that provide adequate
cliffs or large trees for nesting, roosting, and resting.
SPECIFIC HABITAT REQUIREMENTS
Feeding: Primarily eats carrion; rarely
rotting fruit, live birds, eggs, or live mammals. A
highly specialized static soarer, foraging aerially over roads, fields,
open forests, and nearly
all open habitats. Searches for carrion from the air and from
a perch, aided by sense of smell.
May rob young herons of food (Temple 1969).
Cover: Large trees, rock outcrops, and
riparian thickets are used for roosting, perching,
Reproduction: Cliffs, rock outcrops with
rims, ledges, and cavities in trees, snags, and
logs used for nesting.
Water: Drinks occasionally (Brown and
Amadon 1968). Captives have been observed for
6-12 mo without free water (Hatch 1970).
Pattern: Suitable habitat consists of
extensive open areas with protected nest and roost
sites provided by large trees, snags, thickets, shrubs, and rock outcrops.
SPECIES LIFE HISTORY
Activity Patterns: Yearlong, diurnal
Seasonal Movements/Migration: Migrates
south or downslope for winter. Some
individuals in coastal regions winter in California. Remainder
of population migrates, mostly to
Central America, for the winter. Large flocks concentrate along
well defined, traditional
migration routes in autumn.
Home Range: No data found, but observations
indicate turkey vulture uses extensive
areas. Individuals regularly forage out 24-32 km (15-20 mi) from
roost or nest.
Territory: Little evidence of territoriality
found. In California, as many as 500 juveniles
observed using communal roosts August through October.
Reproduction: A ritualized display including
several individuals may precede mating (Loftin
and Tyson 1965, Brown and Amadon 1968). Lays 1 clutch/ yr of
2 eggs, rarely 1 or 3.
Incubates 38-41 days (Brown and Amadon 1968). Semialtricial young
hatch with eyes open;
cared for by both parents for 80 days, or more.
Niche: Often feeds with ravens and condors,
although apparently subordinate to each.
Golden eagles and coyotes may keep turkey vulture from carcasses.
Bent, A. C. 1937. Life histories of North American birds
of prey. Part 1. U.S. Natl. Mus. Bull.
Brown, L., and D. Amadon. 1968. Eagles, hawks and falcons
of the world. 2 Vols. Country
Life Books, London. 945pp.
Coles, V. 1944. Nesting of the turkey vulture in Ohio caves.
Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's
handbook. Simon and
Schuster, New York. 785pp.
Garrett, K., and J. Dunn. 1981. Birds of southern
California. Los Angeles Audubon Soc.
Grinnell, J., and A. H. Miller. 1944. The distribution of the
birds of California. Pac. Coast
Avifauna No. 27. 608pp.
Hatch, D. E. 1970. Energy conserving and heat dissipating
mechanisms of the turkey
vulture. Auk 87:111-124.
Loftin, H., and E. L. Tyson. 1965. Stylized behavior in
turkey vulture courtship dance. Wilson
McKelvey, M. 1965. Unusual bathing habits of the turkey
vulture. Condor 67:265.
Temple, S. A. 1969. A case of turkey vulture piracy on
great blue herons. Wilson Bull.
Work, T. H., and A. J. Wool. 1942. The nest life of the
turkey vulture. Condor 44:149-159.
Compiled from information from California Department of Fish and Game - California Interagency Wildlife Task Group